How’s that for a click-bait title?
Perhaps I should explain. What I mean is: When we don’t allocate people any nuance, we should not be surprised when they adopt polarizing ideologies.
I am not saying we shouldn’t view Hitler’s actions, and ideologies, as anything less than vile – but we can’t forget the man who held them. If you think Hitler was a charismatic sociopath who piggybacked off a struggling economy and tribalism, then you’re approaching my argument from the wrong perspective. The focus here is on the moniker sociopath, because the latter facilitating forces are absolutely accurate. And even then you may be right, Hitler may have been a crafty sociopath.
But I don’t think there’s any compelling evidence for that. And I’d wager that belief is rooted in your unwillingness to see people for what they really are. And in that way, you are the problem I’m arguing against.
I am not claiming that Hitler was without selfish motives. In fact, I’m arguing quite the opposite. Hitler was your prototypical human, that filters internal wants through reason in marketable ways. My argument lies in the fact that you, and almost everyone you know does the exact same thing.
Now for whatever reason, you likely haven’t adopted Hitler’s beliefs. And we could speculate here about why that is, and that would be an equally worthwhile discussion – but that’s not my angle today.
My angle? That Hitler had thoughts, and feelings, and was not inherently an evil man. That he was driven by the same emotions and forces of reasoning that dictate your behavior on a daily basis. That you could take a baby Adolf, present him with a different environment, and he would have never grew into the figure you know today.
Furthermore – we should not assume that Hitler was the only man on earth with the appropriate neural circuitry and environmental cues to adopt the same insidious beliefs. I know many of you have already spotted the flaw in this reasoning and proceeded to highlight the current existence of the hundreds of thousands of white supremacists today.
Now ask yourself:
“What good does it do to tell yourself these people are anomalies?” Even if you believe it for some, and I do concede some inevitably are sociopaths, you cannot possibly claim that everyone in these groups are devoid of empathy. Demonizing them as some unholy conglomeration, not only further entrenches these people in their ignorant ideologies, but it also means you have submitted yourself to the notion that these feelings are part of an unstoppable tide.
Much like a Evangelical Christian believes the forces of evil will sustain in the word until Satan has been vanquished and sent to the floors of hell, you believe that these purely evil dogmatists defy the laws of nature and sprout into existence vacant of study-able phenomenon.
At the very best, you think these deplorable people are not worth the study.
Would it not be better to give ourselves an opportunity to have a nuanced talk about these things? It’s not my wish that anyone be racist, but do you really think you’re winning people over with hate? Look and see where that’s gotten us. Unless we make an effort to understand how people have gotten to where they are, we will never know how to get them to somewhere better.
There is a time for vehement confrontation, but fire begets fire, and we need to think about risk vs. reward. How many of you have been yelled into submission? I’m willingly to wager very few, if those screems were not backed up by something more menacing. Do you think yelling at racists is going to scare any of them into a new mindset? Do you think the threat of physical violence is going to frighten them away? Or do you think it’s a bit more rational to assume these people, who are likely owners of extremely flawed self-esteems, are more likely to view this as an opportunity to demonstrate their usefulness to their group.
Perhaps you see it feasible that the people who have developed an identity around hyper masculinity and hate will react in hyper masculine and hateful ways. And perhaps you’ve been in scary situations yourself, and realize the effect it has on your thinking. Maybe you understand that it gives you an unchallenged proclivity to make brash and powerful decisions.
This is why ANTIFA is truly a admonitable institution – although I really understand the appeal. There’s something fundamentally human about banding together against a common enemy. It’s the primary cog in our sports, for tits sake. But we stand above the animal kingdom because we have adopted new goals over primal ones. We have demonstrated an unprecedented amount of foresight, often at the denial of immediate gratification, to get to better places. What was that study about the children who denied themselves one marshmallow at the promise of two, being more successful?
Let’s strive for a society of marshmallow deniers. We may have to forfeit our tribal urges for a time, but I’m willing to bet there is a positive way we can channel them if we take the care to find it.